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Choosing To Be Well

Jan. 2, 2013
 
Amile Wilson
  • Filed Under
NancyKay Wessman plans to feel good for a long time to come. / Amile Wilson
The Anti-Aging Clinic for Men Clinic Coordinator Ron Holsenback. / Amile Wilson

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Living your best life. Oprah talks about it incessantly. Dr. Oz preaches good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in order to gain and maintain the coveted wellness status. And with the pending changes in healthcare, more and more Americans are taking a long, hard look at staying healthy instead of treating illnesses when they occur. “The way I look at it, you can either make an investment in your health now, or pay medical bills later,” said NancyKay Wessman. “I have chosen to invest in my health now and feel good for a long time to come.”

The cost of healthcare today is staggering, and the results are disappointing. The Congressional Budget Office has reported that up to one-third of the healthcare spending in the United States  more than $700 billion  does not improve Americans' health outcomes. According to updated estimates from the federal government, national health spending will account for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy in 2021. Annual healthcare expenditures in the United States are projected to exceed $4 trillion by 2015.

Among the fastest-growing medical specialties in the world, anti-aging medicine, or “lifestyle medicine,” is an innovation in healthcare, and the practice of advanced preventive medicine is growing. Anti-aging medicine is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical studies for the early detection, prevention, treatment and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders and diseases. This healthcare model utilizes innovative science and research to prolong the healthy life span in humans. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.

Wessman has been a patient at Enhanced Wellness in Jackson for two years, and she’s seen a dramatic difference in her appearance, stamina and overall health. “It’s affected just about every area of my life in a positive way.”

Kelly Engelmann is a family nurse practitioner who is dually certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Board of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners. She founded Enhanced Wellness in 2004, but didn’t start seeing patients until 2006. “This concept of wellness is so new to this area. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I studied the market to see where the ‘holes’ were in healthcare, and I really examined my own passion. It grew from there.”

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Engelmann obtained her undergraduate nursing degree from the University of Mississippi, her graduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, her master’s degree in metabolic and nutritional medicine from the University of South Florida, and she completed her fellowship in Anti-Aging Medicine with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M). According to their website, The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is the world's largest non-profit scientific society of physicians and scientists, who are dedicated to the advancement of technology to detect, prevent, and treat aging-related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimize the human aging process. A4M is also dedicated to educating physicians, scientists, and members of the public on anti-aging issues.

“When I first started this, I really thought I’d be treating healthy patients who wanted to stay healthy, or improve their health,” Engelmann said. “I was so wrong!”

A thorough evaluation is done on each patient when they first come in. “Someone may feel good, but they may be taking sleeping pills to go to sleep at night, something to keep them awake during the day, and they’re drinking excess amounts of coffee or ingesting too much sugar. Those things will catch up with you down the road. Most of our patients have some sort of symptom, and we help them see what they are. It’s similar to a road map. We start with ‘you are here,’ and make a plan to get where they want to go in order to achieve their personal wellness goals. We teach our patients to love and care for themselves.”

While Enhanced Wellness is a primary care clinic that prescribes medications when necessary, the perspective is very different. “We view things from a more functional model than what is used in traditional medicine. We encourage patients to make lifestyle changes, and not too much at one time, as that can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘drink more water.’ We tell them to do that for two weeks then come back and see us. The changes are simple, but as you adopt those changes, and make it a permanent lifestyle change, you are creating sustainable change and the results can be dramatic.”

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Before the age of 30, women rely on their ovaries to provide all of the hormones their body needs. As women age, that hormone production by the ovaries declines, so it’s up to the adrenal glands to make it up, yet it’s not quite the same. As women age, they often have increased weight gain, hot flashes, insomnia and anxiety. “An increase in appetite occurs,” explained Engelmann, “and with that come sugar cravings. But there are things we can do to buffer that, through hormone therapy and nutritional choices.”

Men have similar issues. As men age, hormonal and nutritional deficiencies occur that predispose them to reduced energy levels, depression, insomnia, a reduced sex drive, and progressive weight gain. Often, the underlying cause is a low testosterone level. Testosterone levels begin to decline after the age of 30 and, in some men, testosterone levels can be severely depressed by the time they reach their forties.

The Anti-Aging Clinic for Men, in Madison, is a medical practice whose purpose is to optimize men’s health. The clinic, run by Dr. Michael Manning and Dr. Cliff Adams, opened in March 2012, and the patient list is growing rapidly. Clinic Coordinator Ron Holsenback has been on the program since the beginning and has seen significant changes. “I’m approaching 50, and already I have the stamina I had when I was in my 30s. I’m more aware now than ever of my lifestyle choices. There’s a mental component that goes along with this. I feel more ‘plugged in.’ I have more get-up-and-go.”

According to Manning, approximately 10 million men in the U.S. have testosterone deficiency but very few are receiving treatment. “Men are living longer and are interested in maintaining their quality of life. Testosterone replacement can help men accomplish that goal.” Testosterone is a building block that must be present in adequate amounts before significant gains can be made in the gym. Testosterone increases energy levels, enhances muscle growth, and helps the body repair itself between workouts.

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Holsenback said that testosterone is vital to a man’s health. “It helps to preserve the strength of his skeleton and his muscles; it improves his mood and his ability to sleep through the night; it maintains his ability to function sexually and it is critical in helping men control their weight. Testosterone helps men maintain their muscularity, which, in turn, elevates their basal metabolic rate.”

It’s a balancing act, however. “We constantly check to be sure our patients’ estrogen levels don’t get too high, because that can cause problems as well,” said Holsenback. “Younger bodies can manage that balance better, but as a man ages, we need to monitor hormone levels carefully.”

Manning used the analogy of planting a tree when explaining why men should take part in this type of program. “The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago. The next best time is right now!” In other words, the clock can be turned back somewhat, and corrections can be made to assure optimum health going forward.

“Our bodies are so much more resilient than we think,” said Engelmann. “We just need to understand our bodies better, so we can know what we need to stay healthy. Learning the nuances helps guide healthy lifestyle choices.

Wessman has seen numerous changes in her life since being on the program at Enhanced Wellness. “Not only have I experienced significant weight loss, but I’ve enjoyed having more energy. I feel motivated to do more in life.” Wessman has recently published a book she co-authored with Dr. Gerald Berenson of Tulane School of Public Health. The book, “You Can Fix the Fat From Childhood & Other Heart Disease Risks, Too,” is based on the Bogalusa Heart Study. “There’s no way NancyKay could have written this book two years ago,” said Engelman. “She was stuck physically and mentally. Now her creative juices are flowing again!”